Mother’s Day isn’t cause for celebration in every family—just look at what happened to those polar bear cubs who were eaten by their mother several years ago. Those little guys didn’t have much of a chance against their mom, who wasn’t doing much to keep them alive before she decided to devour them.
If I didn’t know that bears probably aren’t that psychologically sophisticated, I’d bet that bear mother is a narcissist.
The difference between a narcissistic human mother and a bear? The bear had the decency to finish her cubs off quickly instead of killing them slowly, psychically, over a lifetime.
Does this sound like any mother you know—neglectful, vampiric, capable of eating you alive?
If you recognize any of the following situations, then the chances are good that your mother may be killing you.
In the past, when all of your girlfriends are having Mother’s Day brunch with beloved matriarchs who cherished them from birth, do you spend the day alone, stressed out, wondering if the flowers you sent your mom arrived on time?
Do you call her later in the day, but not so late she thinks you’ve only just remembered—and then she accuses you of forgetting?
Does the conversation goes a little something like this?
“Hi, mom. Happy Mother’s Day! How was your day?”
“Fine, fine. Your brother came down and took me out for brunch. We had a nice time….” The small talk gets smaller, and notably absent any mention of the $100 bouquet of roses you had delivered days in advance. Finally, you ask, “So did you get the flowers?”
“What flowers?” she asks.
“I sent you roses, for Mother’s Day. I got the delivery confirmation that they arrived.”
“Oh, those flowers. Yes, yes, I got them days ago.”
“Aren’t they nice?” you ask, trying hard not to plead.
Enter flashbacks, like that feeling you had as a kid, when she used your homemade Mother’s Day card to scrape cigarette ashes off her bureau, tossing your macaroni-laden masterpiece in the trash.
Or that time when you fancied yourself an artist and offered to paint something for her heavily nautical-themed home–think Gorton’s fisherman statues and wall barometers—-and she said, “Oh, no, please don’t.”
Or the time, after you’d just hit puberty and the baby weight from the first 12 years of your life had finally melted away and in its place emerged a not entirely bad looking adolescent girl, giddy over the emergence of her girl parts, when she said, “I liked you better when you were fat.”
Or when she made you a beautiful taffeta dress—two sizes too small—for a special dance you were really excited about going to. And when you couldn’t squeeze into it, she wore it around the house.
Or perhaps there was that time you asked her to fly out and help you with your soon-to-be-born daughter because you’d found out you needed a C-section and she said, “No, I’ll be in Florida then.”
Florida—where she spends about five months a year living on her very ample savings that she sometimes shares with you, at 3 percent interest.
Or that time when you offered to hire her a housekeeper (because she really, really needs one), cleaned her refrigerator out (because she couldn’t part with 10-year-old ketchup without an intervention), and asked her what she wanted you to do if she ever became incapacitated, you know, like her mother, who died of Alzheimer’s, and she flew into a rage.
And then she accused you of thinking she’s “stupid,” because, of course, she has a living will, and no, she’s not going to tell you what’s in it. And that ketchup you threw out? She fished it out of the trash as soon as you left the room.
Of course, I don’t know anyone like this, but if you recognize yourself in these situations, if these flashbacks sound familiar, dear reader, then you might want to ask for a separate cage at the zoo–so to speak—because you’re probably not going to make it out alive.
That’s a rhetorical question. The answer is yes—if you have a dog.
At least once a week, I get to experience what life might have been like if I’d had that second child I always thought I wanted. That’s when my 7-year-old accuses the family dog of launching deeply personal attacks against her that include anything from the highly probable, like stealing a carrot from a hand held too close to the dog’s mouth, to the absurd, “Madge is staring at me. Make her stop!”
“Madge did it” has become such a familiar refrain that the humor of saying “the dog is in my room and won’t leave” is lost on my daughter—who shut the dog in with her in the first place.
Maybe, for some kids, the desire for a sibling is so strong, they’ll use any animate object to fill the role of sister or brother. I hadn’t paid much attention to the complex relationship developing between Olive and Madge until recently. It started with small things, typical things you expect a kid with a dog to do, like teasing the dog with a carrot. Madge is such a very good dog, she just stares and salivates, desperately hoping the carrot will fall to the ground, where she can safely devour it without hearing her people shout about how very bad she is.
These bouts of veiled aggression alternate with periods of near obsession when the dog is out of my daughter’s site for more than 15 minutes:
“Is Madge dead? What happens when she dies? Will we bury her in the backyard? If she dies, can we get a puppy? Isn’t she cute, mom? Mom, look how cute she is? Isn’t she adorable, mom? She’s old, but not that old, right, mom? I love her so, so much, mom!”
And when Madge went missing early Sunday morning—the small gate that keeps her squat 21-pound body in the yard had been knocked down during the night—you’d have thought we’d found her dismembered body on the sidewalk for the tears Olive shed during our search.
Minutes after the morning’s sidewalk dirge woke the neighbors, we spotted her, bouncing toward us from the alley across the street, entrails intact and smelling like she’d rolled in the carcass of a 12-day-old mouse. Celebration followed, dog treats were passed ’round. And Madge—thinking such praise meant that business with the carrot was forgotten—trotted toward Olive’s room to chew on a piece of paper she’d found somewhere.
She had but one paw over the threshold before Olive’s punishing ”no” stopped her at the door—and Madge had to find another place, on another floor, to eat her paper.
Margaret Thatcher was, to say the least, a contentious figure in the UK, but you can’t fault the woman for uttering some of the more memorable quotes about women, politics, and how to be a force in the world. She had something to say about everything, and most of it was witty, direct, and practical.
My personal favorite (or is that favourite?):
“You turn if you want to; the lady’s not for turning.”
There is no better way of saying “I won’t change my mind, and you can’t make me” than this. Your kid asks you to reconsider a curfew? Sorry, but “the lady’s not for turning.” And if said child gives you the stink eye, just tell him/her to look it up. A little learning never hurt anyone.
When it comes to parenting, everyone has an opinion, but Jackie Kennedy’s opinion matters more than most:
“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.”
On marriage, you need only consult Jane Austen, who, incidentally, was never married:
“Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.”
When facing frustrations with sneering wit, look no further than Dorothy Parker to play it as it lays:
“What fresh hell is this?”
Despite Taylor Swift’s inappropriate use of Madeline Albright’s words in her verbal tussle with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey around a comment made during the Golden Globes earlier this year, the searing truth of Albright’s words still ring true:
“There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.”
Like or loathe her, Hillary Clinton knows how to take a punch. Whether it’s a cheating husband or comments about her cankles, the lady does not back down from a good fight. And speaking of fights, here’s what she had to say about them:
“You show people what you’re willing to fight for when you fight your friends.”